two girls, one suck: why horror fans should run screaming from pascal laugier’s 'martyrs'
Martyrs: Throbbing squirm, gurgling bloody mess.
The American DVD release of splatterpunk-of-the-week and internet controversy-machine Pascal Laugier's 2008 film Martyrs prominently features an option by which you can watch a brief introduction by the director - actually, that's two features by which you can watch a brief introduction by the director, one by itself and one that'll run as a sort of intro before the movie: Dimension Extreme really wants you to watch Monsieur Laugier talk about his movie, dig.
But to paraphrase Burgess Meredith, the thing of it is, though, the thing of it is is that Pascal doesn't introduce his flick by way of his process or the ideas behind it. That's not to say it's not revealing: indeed, Laugier's phony introspection about all le trouble he's caused since his movie debuted at the Toronto Film Festival and musing over whether or not he really hates his own film is such an obvious schtick that the vaudeville pianist from "Family Guy" should've played him out of frame. He's a natural to take up Clive Barker's Hellraiser remake, since the erstwhile Future of Horror has done little since the early 1990s save flog his own dubious brand in the name of filthy lucre (that's you all over, Clive - a lie, and no heart). It's a match made in schlockmeister heaven.
It's a shame, because lots of buzz-makers on the internets apparently love them some Martyrs. And not without reason - for sensation-seekers, Martyrs must be like money from Bill Gates. That's fine, there's plenty of room in the theatre for people who like a sugar rush, yours truly among them, and yes, there are plenty of jump scares. But because Laugier here is so heavily reliant on other people's work - the movie can basically be broken down into three or four segments, each of which owes such an enormous debt to the look and tone of a slew of recent movies ranging from The Orphanage, (a deeply flawed) Hostel, (an even more deeply flawed) Funny Games, and a broad swathe from (the all-too-often flawed) Dario Argento, that it's hard to see it as an original piece. It's troubling that something so bereft of any ideas - so much so that the result is something approaching irresponsibility - has so many fans.
The paucity of Laugier's thesis is shown when, right around the seriously?-seriously?-that's-what-this-was-all-about? "reveal" he leans on the shock value via a collection of horrific real-life photos of young women being tortured and/or killed not once, but twice. It's practically a cry for help, an admission that all the screaming and yelling and naked girls he's shown in the first two-thirds of the movie can never unsettle you like the real thing. This isn't misogny, or masochism, it's disrespect. In this gesture, Laugier shows us that the genre and this movie means about as much to him as porn: see, a porn user who isn't too far gone into his or her loneliness has to eventually admit to him or herself the realization that this is all fake and nobody's getting off here, just transacting money. This isn't a story or even a movie by Laugier's standards, he just needs to get to act four so he'll have a reason to beat the hell out of Morjana Alaoui.
By the time we reach the supposed payoff, Martrys' structure is weak and moral compass so skewed, it resembles something more like what Kirk Cameron thinks horror movies are rather than cutting-edge cinema. If you're looking for a challenge from the land where Jerry Lewis is loved - one that pays tribute to it's influences instead of ripping them off and out of context - then go Inside. Because at bottom, Martyrs is just one of those dipshit video games they sell during WWE broadcasts, except with prettier girls.